World's Governments Adopt New Controls to Protect High Value Rosewood and Ebony

Mar 12, 2013, 06:19 ET from Environmental Investigation Agency

BANGKOK, March 12, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Efforts to conserve precious hardwoods in Asia, Africa and South America were given a critical boost today at the meeting of the 177-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in the face of significant pressure from increasing global demand.  In response to this threat, four source countries – Madagascar, Belize, Thailand and Vietnam –requested international support from CITES for their efforts to control rampant extraction and trade in rosewood and ebony.  Today's vote is a major step towards saving the species from extinction and curbing the explosion lawlessness wrought by the illegal trade in these precious woods.

Kate Horner, Director of Forest Campaigns at the Environmental Investigation Agency-US (EIA-US), said, "We congratulate CITES on this necessary first step in protecting remaining stands of rosewood and ebony from illegal and unsustainable trade.  The insatiable international demand for high value, precious, woods has already depleted much of the world's populations of rosewood and ebony and the remaining stocks are under extreme threat due to booming prices in the global marketplace. We hope for swift and effective implementation, with the full support of all Parties to CITES, and especially from major transit and consuming countries."

Parties approved by consensus - to loud applause -  five separate proposals to list more than 200 species of rosewood and ebony on CITES Appendix II. Appendix II includes species in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival, to prevent their decline and possible extinction. Export permit certificates, issued by the timber producing governments, are now required for all of these newly listed tree species.  There permits must certify that any proposed export of rosewood or ebony was legally obtained, and that the export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species. These measures will go a long way to improve transparency and accountability in the trade of these precious woods.

Mark Roberts, Senior International Policy Advisor, stated "Rampant illegal logging and unsustainable timber harvests are wreaking havoc on local communities and ecosystems around the world, looting forests and depriving developing country governments of millions of dollars in revenue from unpaid taxes. Today's vote is a strong indication that the international community finally is serious about addressing this problem."

Background on Madagascar:
In June 2009, Madagascar National Parks (MNP), with an official mandate of the Ministry of the Environment and Forests, contracted Global Witness and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) to investigate and monitor the flow of illegally harvested precious wood from the national parks and surrounding areas of Madagascar's SAVA Region. This illicit trade in rare, high-value species such as ebony, and rosewood, serves export markets in China, the United States and Europe, where it is used to manufacture furniture and musical instruments. The quick profits on offer have fuelled a timber rush that has decimated Madagascar's few remaining precious forests.

EIA's November 2009 report, "Investigation
into the illegal felling, transport and export of precious wood in SAVA Region Madagascar," revealed the inner workings of the trade and the extent of the damage. It estimated the traffic's value at up to USD $460,000 per day
 on international markets, with most profits pocketed by a small group of "timber barons," who typically channel the money into overseas bank accounts and property.

Report available here:

Background on Thailand.
In February 2012, EIA met with the Government of Thailand to encourage a listing for Siam Rosewood on Cites Appendix 11. Following this the Department of National Parks convened a public event that outlined the violence, and risks that Thai rangers take on a daily basis from armed logging gangs. Thailand has become increasingly more transparent on their seizures, methods that smugglers take, and routes of this illegal trade. To date over 600 containers of Siam Rosewood have been seized by Thai customs, 178,609 pieces of wood were confiscated in over 3,000 illegal logging cases during the past 6 years.

Rosewood Robbery briefing available here:

Kate Horner, Director of Forest Campaigns, Washington DC
+1 (202) 483-6621,
Mark Roberts, Senior Policy Advisor, Bangkok
+1 (617) 722-8222,

SOURCE Environmental Investigation Agency